Monthly Archives: August 2009

“JAZZ ULTIMATE,” CERTAINLY

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CHARLES PETERSON’S VISION

This is the second part of what I hope will be a long series on the jazz photography of Charles Peterson, who mystically saw the essence of jazz.  00000005

Here’s Peterson the documentary photographer — his casual, offhanded shot of a quartet led by Sidney Bechet, who is characteristically both in command and absolutely at the service of the music he is creating, the experience ecstatic and powerful.  What I find fascinating are the expressions on the faces of his sidemen: Cliff Jackson (whom I remember seeing in later photographs as white-haired) looks up at the Master to see where the currents of music are going; Eddie Dougherty, a wonderful and little-known Brooklyn-born drummer, seems anxious, although he may have only been caught in mid-comment, and Wellman Braud is quietly gleeful, rocking in rhythm.  They seem small objects drawn into Bechet’s vortex.  The photo suggests that any cohesive jazz group forms itself into a unit, but each musician retains his or her essential personality, and in this picture we see the quiet tension between the Selves and the Community.  And this photo brings up another of Peterson’s unintended gifts to us: how many people ever were fortunate enough to be at the Mimo Club in Harlem to hear this quartet, much less at this moment on February 16, 1942?  But — with a substantial record collection, some memory and imagination — we can invent the music that this band is creating. 

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This is a new split-second capture from a famous jazz session and photo shoot: the Commodore Records session of April 20, 1939, where Billie Holiday recorded STRANGE FRUIT, YESTERDAYS, I GOTTA RIGHT TO SING THE BLUES, and FINE AND MELLOW.  The musicians are bassist Johnny Williams, trumpeter Frank Newton, altoist Stanley Payne, and tenorist Kenneth Hollon.  Billie is holding a long-noted syllable; is it the “Yes” in YESTERDAYS?  And she is very young, very beautiful, also giving herself up to the music, her hands folded, her eyes almost-shut, Peterson’s lighting capturing her mouth, chin, and throat.  What distinguishes this portrait from others at this session is Billie’s lovely and obviously-treasured fur coat.  I find it ironic, seventy years after the session, that there is such a gap between Billie in her fur — which she deserved more than anyone — and the material she sings with such deep emotion.  One song, most famous, describes lynchings in the South; another describes a “fine and mellow” lover who doesn’t treat his woman well; a third and fourth describe bygone happinesses, all gone now, and the blues one sings when one’s lover has left.  And Billie sang these four songs as if her heart would break . . . wearing that fur coat.  Later in the session, of course, she got warm and took it off.  And no doubt the irony didn’t occur to her and she would have laughed it off if someone pointed it out, “Lady, you look too good to be singing those blues!”00000010

Hard at work is all I can say.  The caption states that this is the Summa Cum Laude band — led in part by Bud Freeman, arrangements by valve-trombonist Brad Gowans — performing at Nick’s in December 1938.  The band must be negotiating some serious ensemble passage, for they all look so intent.  Bassist Clyde Newcome stares out into space, as does Pee Wee Russell; Gowans and Freeman, especially Brad, are watching the band warily, or perhaps Brad is reading the music off the stand in the center.  I would guess that the drummer is Al Sidell, but I would hope that it is Stan King* — drummers shuttled in and out of this band.  The rather somber effect of this picture suggests to me that the band is playing one of its medleys of current hits (you can hear them on the airshots in 1939-40 from Chicago’s Panther Room at the Hotel Sherman . . . grown men of this artistic stature playing SIERRA SUE, but what can I say?)  Serious business indeed.  (In his later comment, Mike Burgevin points out that I left out Max Kaminsky.  How did I do this?)  *Don Peterson confirmed that the drummer is indeed Stan King — one of jazz’s entirely forgotten men. 

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This photo lets me imagine a time before I was born when James P. Johnson could wear his pin-stripe suit and play the piano, which is what he was meant to do.  It was taken in 1946, on a “Jazz on the River” cruise organized by Rudi Blesh and Art Hodes to go up and down the Hudson River.  From left, there’s the hand of an unidentified bassist, James P., Baby Dodds, Marty Marsala on trumpet (with the appropriate handkerchief) and guitarist Danny Barker — some of the same crew who turned up on the THIS IS JAZZ radio broadcasts.   But my secret pleasure in this photograph comes from the pretty woman whose head seems (although much smaller) in the same plane as James P.’s.  She is tidily dressed; her cardigan, pulled together at the collar, reveals a neat floral blouse beneath; we sense that she wears a neat wool skirt.  Her eyeglasses gleam in Peterson’s flashbulb; her hair is demure; her modest lipstick is in place.  Her hands are decorously in her lap.  Yet it’s clear — although she is prim, restrained, the last person to whoop and knock over her highball — that she is deeply pleased by what she hears.  As much as Bechet or James P., she is in the grip of the music, wanting it to go on forever. 

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Berenice Abbott told Hank O’Neal that most of photography was having the patience to wait for the right moment.  I’ll end this series with a superbly right moment — with only two musicians, Eddie Condon and Bobby Hackett, playing at the “Friday Club” jam sessions held at the Park Lane Hotel in Manhattan — this one on February 17, 1939.  Hackett here is much as I remember him, up close, in 1972: a small, slender man, neatly dressed, dark eyebrows, thin wrists with black hair on them.  Here he is all of 24, and so small that while standing he is only inches taller than Condon, sitting.  The expression on his face might be a smile or it might be that he is working hard to bring off a particular nuanced phrase.  But our attention is drawn to Condon, also young and healthy.  Condon called Hackett “The Impostor,” because — with his peculiarly ornate wit, he said “Nobody can be that good.”  The teasing compliment almost slips away, but you get the point.  What is more important in this picture — more than Condon’s neat attire — is his grin, his head turned in delight and pleasure and admiration towards Hackett, who is clearly playing something marvelous, inimitable, lovely.  Condon is astonished by what he’s hearing, but he’s expected no less from Bobby.  This photograph captures the joy (and the labor) of this music better than any prose. 

Thank you, Charles Peterson!

P.S.  It didn’t surprise me that Peterson’s offspring were particularly talented in music, film, and writing.  His daughter, Karen Yochim, a successful country-and-western songwriter, lives in Louisiana, has written extensively about Cajun culture for newspapers and magazines — and is branching out as a crime novelist.  Peterson’s granddaughter Schascle “Twinkle” Yochim (her name is Cajun, pronounced “Suh-Shell”) is a professional singer with several CDs, concentrating on soul, rock, and to a limited extent, country-and-western. She’s also a songwriter, with songs accepted in feature films currently in production.  

After a career in the Navy, Peterson’s son, Don, worked for the Navy Department in Washington, DC, doing motion picture & television scriptwriting.  Don also wrote scripts for many film and television productions.  He retired in 1986 and now concentrates on marketing his father’s photographic legacy, most lavishly accessible in the book SWING ERA NEW YORK.

HAPPINESS ON THE FLOOR

KEEPING IN THE SWING OF THINGS TOGETHER

SARAH MORAN, Special to the Star Tribune

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by David Joles

Photo by David Joles

 

 

 

 

Dance partners Allen Hall, 77, and his wife, Rudy Hall, 64, have danced every other night this summer. “It’s a mild form of insanity,” Allen said.

Allen Hall, 77, and Rudy Hall, 64, swing dancers • South Haven, Minn.

Him: When I was a kid in St. Louis a long time ago, I always wanted to be a jitterbugger because the coolest guys could do the jitterbug. I was too shy to ask girls to dance and didn’t know how to do it anyway. But a long period of time transpired and I married Rudy, and she’s always been a dancer. She got me into dancing and into swing dancing, so it took a while but I finally had the little light pop over my head and I said to myself, “Maybe I’m going to be able to do this.”

Her: I started doing the Lindy Hop in 1953. My family [members] were musicians, and I tried my hand at playing instruments, but I couldn’t make myself stay with it because when I’d hear music I just wanted to dance. It took me years to get Allen to dance. He was too shy to dance when he was young, but after he retired he had more time. I was still going out dancing with friends and I’d come home every night soaking with sweat, talking about what a good time I had. Finally he said, well, maybe he should take a renewed interest. He took some lessons, and I taught him also.

Him: We get it where we can. We’re home about five months of the year in Minnesota, and I’m guessing we dance about two or three nights a week — sometimes more. We’re on the road in the motor home the remainder of the year, and last year we danced almost every other night.

Her: I was so in love with dancing and music, and of course I was driving to dance a couple nights a week without him, and there was just always something missing, but I couldn’t put my hand on it. Once he started dancing with me I just looked forward to it a lot more because I knew he was going with me. It was just a totally different feeling. It seemed like my dance was more complete.

Him: Every marriage is different, but I think successful marriages rely at least in part in having something in common, so we have this. This is a great part of our social life, our friends are mostly all younger people who also dance. There’s no intergenerational friction in dancing. They don’t care if you’re blue and have only one leg — if you can dance, you’re in.

Her: We both have something to look forward to together every week, and sometimes every night because we dance so much. It just keeps the relationship together.

Thanks to John Cooper for this inspiring tale!

JAZZ RELICS FOR SALE

By the time this post appears, the eBay auction will be over — but this is the first collection of jazz-related matchbooks and swizzle sticks I’ve ever seen, so I thought it was worth notice.  Someone went there; someone saved these things; someone had a wonderful time, I am sure.

REMMEBERING EDDIE CONDON'S (on eBay)

Eddie Condon’s, the midtown version, New York City, the early Sixties — endearing jazz archaeology.

“EVERYTHING IS JAZZ” in BRAZIL: 2009, 2010

This just in!  (The Beloved and I will be at Jazz at Chautauqua, but you certainly should go, if you can . . . )

“EIGHTH EDITION OF BRAZILIAN INTERNATIONAL JAZZ FESTIVAL PAYS HOMAGE TO ONE OF THE GREATEST JAZZ SINGERS OF THE 20TH CENTURY: BILLIE HOLIDAY

The tribute gathers Madeleine Peyroux, Mart´Nália and the Lady Day All Star Band on the same stage under Oded Lev-Ari’s arrangement.  All the musical diversity found in the streets and cultural spaces in the beginning of the 20th century in New Orleans, the jazz capital, is executed until today by the contemporary jazzists during their brilliant performances and improvisations. Such proof of that is the Tudo É Jazz Festival of Ouro Preto (a historical and popular city in Minas Gerais, Brazil), that’s been happening since 2002. This year, the audience present during the days 18, 19 and 20 of September will appreciate the refined music of jazz’s big names for free and outdoors. According to Maria Alice Martins, the event’s coordinator and idealizer, she always intended for the Festival to have a democratic character. “This won´t suddenly turn jazz into something popular, but it will allow the audience to have more access to great music”, affirms Maria Alice.

The Tudo É Jazz Festival reaches its eighth edition in 2009 with a homage to one of the greatest jazz singers the world has ever known: Billie Holiday, a black, poor woman that abruptly conquered all ears of great musicians from America and all around the world. The event will happen on a stage located in the traditional Largo do Rosário, in Ouro Preto. 11 presentations are programmed for the three days, with the participation of about 70 musicians.

With Maria Alice’s curatorial work, the Festival gathers revealing artists, such as the singer and guitarist Kate Schutt; some jazz old hands, like Bucky Pizzarelli – and his guitar –, and Ron Carter, who performs for the second time in the event; and even the talents from the prestigious music school of Marciac, in France.

The tribute to Billie Holiday will take place on Saturday, September 19th, with musical direction by Oded Lev-Ari and the participations of Madeleine Peyroux, the Brazilian singer Mart´Nália and the Lady Day All-Star Band, constituted by six important musicians of the international jazz scenery. On Sunday, September 20th, the last day of the Festival, the year of France in Brazil will be celebrated with the performance of a quartet of former students from the school of Marciac and the Paris Jazz Big Band, the biggest in France.

Down Beat Magazine – jazz ´n´ blues specialized publication – selected and requested 120 renowned jazz critics, among USA and around the world professionals, to vote for the best artists of the year. Three musicians that fit the category Rising Stars – which represents those in ascension – will perform to the audience of the Tudo É Jazz Festival, during its eighth edition through September 18 to 20, in Ouro Preto (Minas Gerais, Brazil), the talents that resulted on their nominations. They are: Anat Cohen (awarded in the categories “Artist of the Year” and “Clarinet”), Marcus Strickland (categories “Sax Tenor” and “Sax Soprano”) and Lionel Loueke (category “Guitar”).

The news that appeared in jazz on the last few years was the extraordinary spreading that has turned the gender into a kind of language that is easily interpreted all over the globe. A project was elaborated to create contact between the public and some valuable instrumental music, sharpening the audience’s critical sense and offering social-artistic-cultural growth. At the same time, offering the best technical qualities possible, to appraise the presentations; hiring sound, light and stage structure from the best companies all over South America, besides the best technicians to offer environment comfort to the audience. Since the 2009 edition, the presentations have become completely free charge for the public.

Nowadays the Tudo É Jazz Festival includes in its program Brazilian musicians that have more recognition outside their country than in. So, the Festival brought Raul de Souza in a concert with Claire Michel Group; Oscar Castro-Neves, that’s been living out of Brazil for over 40 years; the acclaimed pianist and singer Eliane Elias; Ivan Lins (that is unfairly not recognized as a good musician in Brazil, but appreciated abroad), that played along with Michel Legrand. Also, the Festival has developed, in the several groups interested in music from Ouro Preto and near cities, a closer contact with jazz, the music of the 21st century due to its originality, constant evolution, always influenced by history and by what’s happening right now, absorbing the feelings of the happenings and making music become an exceptional cultural and pedagogical instrument.

The Festival has made possible the creation of a Culture Point, the Alto da Cruz Culture Point, in an action that integrates the multiplicity of culture e shared management between the Senhor Bom Jesus das Flores Musical Society, the Ouro Preto City Hall and the ACL – Associação da Cultura Livre (Free Culture Association). This project has the purpose of being economically viable, socially fair, ecologically correct and inspired on the respect that the location owns; also, it’s turned to the teen and children’s population in a social high risk situation, due to drugs influence, alcohol and outcast environment, so that a project involving social inclusion through music can be developed.

In 2010, the Festival’s Tribute will be to Louis Armstrong, the world’s greatest name of jazz music. Coming to the Festival, projects of great musicians from all over the world to pay a homage to the artist that lightened the public’s attention to the musical gender: after Armstorng came up, jazz grew intensely and unexpectedly, becoming one of the most remarkable phenomenon in the cultural history.

Visit our website: www.noir.com.br

DOUBLE YOUR (JAZZ) PLEASURE

andersons

This just in — from our diligent and still-unpaid roving jazz correspondent Marianne Mangan — !

Who are these clean-cut young men holding saxophones?  They’re talented players, that’s who — identical twins Will Anderson and Peter Reardon Anderson, reed wizards whom I’ve heard and enj0yed on gigs with Jon-Erik Kellso and with Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks.  Their performance credits are far more elaborate than those groups, however, as you can read on their website: http://www.andersontwinsjazz.com/bio.html.  Peter plays tenor and clarinet; Will, alto and clarinet.  Now you can hear them, too, at that palace of jazz, Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.  Their group, the Anderson Twins Quintet, will be appearing there from Tuesday, September 1, to Saurday, September 5, with their performances beginning at 11 PM — music worth taking a midday nap for!

Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola is located within Jazz at Lincoln Center, at 60th Street and Broadway in New York City.  Phone: 212-258-9800.  The cover charge is $10-20 (presumably weekdays /weekends);  $5-10 for students with valid student ID.

AT LAST! A CANGELOSI CARDS CD!

cards

Thrilling news for those of us who have delighted in the band at live gigs, but always wanted something we could listen to at home, in the car, on the train . . . the possibilities are endless. 

I learned of it through Eve Polich’s posting on her AVALON site:

http://avalonjazz.blogspot.com/2009/08/cangelosi-records-for-sale.html,

which led me to: http://losmusicosviajeros.net/purchase.html

Even with my rudimentary Spanish, I can translate this as “something we have to have!”